Monday , Mar , 08 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Los Angeles Lakers Team Report – March 8

=== Los Angeles Lakers Team Report – March 8 ===

(Sports Network) – The Los Angeles Lakers target their fourth consecutive
win tonight when they start a four-game road trip against the Utah jazz at the
Delta Center.

Karl Malone, who is on the injured list, is expected to be on the bench with
the Lakers tonight and make his first appearance in Utah since leaving for Los
Angeles as a free agent this past summer. The 40-year-old forward, who is
still at least a week away from returning, has yet to suit up against the Jazz
this season, missing the first game because of a suspension and sitting out
the first matchup in Utah due to his knee injury.

Malone, who spent the first 18 years of his Hall of Fame career in Utah,
wanted to be in Salt Lake City tonight after the Jazz performed a skit in the
Lakers’ last visit that mimicked Malone’s voice and made reference to teammate
Kobe Bryant’s pending rape trial.

On Sunday, Shaquille O’Neal poured in 32 points and grabbed nine rebounds to
lead the Lakers past the New Jersey Nets, 94-88, at Staples Center. Gary
Payton chipped in 18 points and nine boards for Los Angeles, which has won 10
of its last 12 contests.

The win also moved the Lakers’ to within just a half-game of the idle San
Antonio Spurs for third place in the Western Conference playoff race. LA is
also five games back of the conference-leading Sacramento Kings in the Pacific

The Lakers were without Bryant, who could be sidelined up to a month after
spraining his right shoulder during Friday’s win over Seattle.

Los Angeles has won six of seven and eight of its last 10 on the road and is
17-16 away from home this season.

The Lakers have defeated Utah twice already this season, but could be at a
disadvantage tonight, as the home team in this series has won seven of the
last nine matchups. LA, though, has won five straight meetings, including four
of the last six in Utah.